We walked across great plains and countless farm fields framed against pristine days of clear morning skies, yellow-white days and nights filled with endless stars. Eventually the plains gave way to forests, and as we continued our trek, we soon could see the tangled jungle ahead. Before long, the chatter of monkeys and birds was deafening as we made our way into the dense, damp foliage following a path under a canopy of infinite trees.

We came across villages that were friendly and willing to offer some food. I required very little, and my meager subsistence was always somehow provided for by these unselfish villagers whose generosity of basic food and medicine insured the survival of us wandering key seekers.

One morning, I was surprised to find six robed men with shaved heads walking down the path in single file. When I decided to join in the procession with my clay bowl, they didn't seem to mind at all. In fact, the one at the end of the column seemed relieved since the mad dogs in the village always picked on the last in line.

After making the food rounds, we walked six kilometers in silence and single file to the robed men's community deep in the jungle. It was very reminiscent of my years with a John and I felt completely at home with these key seekers who were obviously very serious - a sign of a good teacher.

I was shown to a hut after the meal and rested until early evening when I noticed some robed men walking toward the main hall. I decided to follow along, but instead of going to the hall, they stopped at an unusual hut that was surrounded by unusually beautiful plants and flowers. The inside of the hut was the same size as the other huts inhabited by these men, but the hut itself was built in the middle of a large, elevated veranda supported by large, high pillars instead of the ordinary stilts. Under the hut, two men were slowly fanning an old robed man who was sitting on a high seat, while the whole community of key seekers slowly gathered under the large structure.

The old man motioned toward the front, indicating he wanted me to sit near him, and after I was seated he said, "My name is Weeja, and you are welcome here. You are now permitted to be a complete failure in the eyes of the world and no longer must battle with life."

I was greatly impressed with this teacher, whose accepting, non-conditional greeting made me feel immediately at home. Weeja then studied me. He would look away occasionally but then come back and look directly at me as if searching my mind. The mosquitoes were fierce and all was quiet, as the two men continued to slowly fan their leader with huge banana leaves. It was extremely humid, the heavy air laden with moisture, and a storm threatening. Nobody spoke or moved. It was perfectly silent, a powerful silence with these men sitting peacefully and not making a sound.

A small, brown scorpion crawled up my leg and onto my lap, but I was not going to move and disturb the silence. The small insect scurried sideways over to my wrist, and although I made no threatening moves, it stung me. The pain was excruciating, accompanied by stinging pins and needles running up and down the length of my arm. All I could do was concentrate on my solar plexus to ease the pain - and still I did not move. The astute leader saw everything in the silence and quietly asked if I wanted something for the bite. I declined.

Weeja then addressed the assembled men; "I ask permission to speak. . . . You will never find a diamond in a rock. You can break it open and look forever. When the rock is put under pressure for a long while, however, . . . ahh, the rock disappears and there is the diamond!

"Likewise, you will never find the Source in your ‘self,' you can analyze yourself forever and not find it, but when that self, the one who is looking, is put under the pressure of intense inner work for a long time, ahh, . . . the self disappears and there is Reality!

"Can you imagine yourselves beyond consciousness, or envision timelessness? Can you grasp the immensity of eternity? These things you will be able to know fully with the inner work but you will never be able to experience them or utter a word about them to anyone, as there are no words to express them.

"You are the Source, here and now, and there is no such thing as progress toward the Source. There is just a steady realization that you are presently blind to this fact. Each moment is eternal in itself, as time is simply a record of a consciousness that creates previous and future moments. Everything happens now. Without insight, your past will be your tomorrows and your tomorrows will be but a phantasm of yesterday, as your dreams and the dreams of all beings intermingle.

"The barrier of consciousness will keep you from these simple truths for as long as you cling to the fantasy of individual experience. Look forward to the day when experiencing ends.

"May you find your key."

Weeja put his palms together at his chest and bowed toward the men, signifying the evening meeting was concluded, and when they slowly began to leave, he glanced at me and motioned toward the steps of his hut.

The rails and huge veranda were gleaming, a result of the wood being polished with coconut husks until the coconut oil and the rubbing buffed the wood to a deep luster, a work of love by key seekers out of respect for their leader.

The hut was very small as are all key seeker huts, with two shuttered windows, now open, and bare walls. There was a water jug, cup and food bowl near the door with a candle and some incense on a table toward the back. This was the extent of Weeja's worldly possessions.

We entered the tiny hut to the flurry of two geckos scurrying off the back wall, as Weeja lit a candle and invited me to sit. After a few minutes, he offered me a cup of water, which I drank, and then noiselessly returned the cup to its place near the water jug as we continued to sit in silence.

I felt a great peacefulness in this man's presence, and already had a deep admiration for him although only knowing him for such a short time. His influence was such that I felt as if I could silently sit in this little hut with him forever. The locusts and cicadas were beginning their evening serenade, beckoning to the pair of geckos that circumspectly made their way to the door to embark on their nocturnal hunt for insects. In the distance could be heard the "gecko, gecko!" of their kinsmen, and there was a soft patter of rain on nearby leaves as the vapors of the ocean fell upon the land to start their journey back to their Source.

Weeja continued to sit quietly without speaking and I, out of respect, sat silently as well. This man's quiet, sincere demeanor touched me deeply, as if no words were required, and it created an atmosphere of complete confidence. Silence is so powerful.

He presently began speaking very softly, as if he was talking to someone who was very ill or in deep pain: "The Calms sharpen the sword, but a sword is not useful until it cuts through. That is its duty." Then he became silent again so that my heart could absorb what was just said.

Those few words indicated that my journey was far from over, and I realized that there was much more to do. The rain had begun to drift in through the open windows but I did not move in the presence of this great master.

Weeja continued in a humble, almost apologetic tone, "Therefore, it is now your duty to cut through." He stopped and looked at me for a moment. He then said, "Thank you for joining me on this perfect evening, and may you find your key."

I stood up and bowed, feeling a great respect and appreciation for this gentle being of few words who accepted me so unconditionally, and who had given up everything, dedicating his entire life to helping others find their way out of darkness. I felt a profound gratefulness, for not only this leader, but for the entire group of robed men who willingly gave up the comforts of home and family to risk their lives in the pursuit of this elusive key; this unfathomable mystery that held the secret of mankind's only hope.

The storm broke with a fury, and with crashing thunder and blinding lightening as my solitary companions, I returned to my hut and wondered what this ‘cutting through' meant. My mind was extremely sharp and sensitive from my three years in the cave, of this I was certain, and I was aware that wisdom was developing in small ways, but apparently in order to develop this wisdom in the same manner that I developed the Calms, there was something else I must do. I had no choice but to be patient and see what developed. (To be continued)

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-nine years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit www.AYearToEnlightenment.com